Has 3.5 / Pathfinder made harsh deserts too easy?


Mummy's Mask

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Kind of funny how people imagine a desert as a sandbox playground sometimes. Dunes in a desert can be as high as hills. Then most deserts do actually have rocks or some kind of formations that block visibility. Flat plain deserts are rare i think, and even in them you have this heat phenomenon, where the air wavers and you don´t see that far because of it.


Rakshaka wrote:
This doesn't address the issue that most desert combats are going to have far more ranged fights that any other. Using monsters at low level that can survive and attack and move fast are not always what's written into the AP; Legacy of Fire sure isn't written that way at all. I'm not talking about what a DM can come up on their own to deal with deserts, I'm talking about the need to address a possible issue that may play out in a desert themed AP, as its written.

I see it as a strength to the environment, rather than a weakness, myself. The majority of these APs centre around cities (lots of cover, short distances) and dungeon-style rooms (small spaces, no place for ranged attacks).

Having somebody with quality ranged skills and good perception get an advantage during the desert bits is just good design, just as having skill-focused segments help the skill monkeys to shine and an arm-wrestling contest helps the Strength-focused PCs to shine.

It's a good opportunity to get use out of ranged rules (and longer-distance spells). I agree the AP needs to call it out in the combat tactics - however, having a round or three where the combatants all run in (moving 3-4 times their speed) while archers pelt them sounds great.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Mundane issues, like deserts and tundra enviroments, should pose a logistical challenge to low level (1-4) parties. Mostly it is a few resources that the could have used elsewhere. (Endure Elements instead of Cure Light Wounds or Magic Missle)

For mid-level you need to make the enviroment more extreme. Add some toxicity to the area. Endure Elements will help against the heat, but not the fumes the come from the lava vents.

After level 10 or so, then you need to get to planar style changes. (Gravity and Time)

For the most part, I prefer to see enviroments provide a modification to the challenge at hand and not be the challenge itself. A Sandstorm is not too bad to deal with. Dealing with ranged posion spitting scorpions who are immune to the sandblasting while in a sandstrom now makes it interesting.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I don't see anywhere in the Pathfinder ruleset where it says one point of energy resistance makes you immune to environmental conditions.

A houserule that I've applied in my RoW campaign is that you get double your ER as a bonus to your Fort saves.


If you suffer damage from hypothermia but it fails to get through your energy resistance, you don't suffer any of the adverse effects and in essence "made your save." Reign of Winter.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

So that would indicate that Energy Resistance does not grant you total immunity at one point. Now, Energy Resistance 6 or more....

Scarab Sages

Reckless wrote:

I don't see anywhere in the Pathfinder ruleset where it says one point of energy resistance makes you immune to environmental conditions.

A houserule that I've applied in my RoW campaign is that you get double your ER as a bonus to your Fort saves.

quoting myself from upthread:

me! wrote:

Yes, though you'd really need to be level 12 before you could ignore both hot and cold entirely.

CRB:Environment wrote:

Extreme cold (below –20° F) deals 1d6 points of lethal damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.

and
CRB:Environment wrote:

Extreme heat (air temperature over 140° F, fire, boiling water, lava) deals lethal damage. Breathing air in these temperatures deals 1d6 points of fire damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save every 5 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Those wearing heavy clothing or any sort of armor take a –4 penalty on their saves.

and
ACG:Humans wrote:

Paladin: Add +1 to the paladin's energy resistance to one kind of energy (maximum +10).


Heat doesn´t make fire damage, but nonlethal damage, long before it deals lethal damage and that is not nullified by energy resistance fire.

And there is this:

Cold Dangers wrote:

Cold and exposure deal nonlethal damage to the victim. A character cannot recover from the damage dealt by a cold environment until she gets out of the cold and warms up again. Once a character has taken an amount of nonlethal damage equal to her total hit points, any further damage from a cold environment is lethal damage.

An unprotected character in cold weather (below 40° F)must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well (see the skill description).

In conditions of severe cold or exposure (below 0° F), an unprotected character must make a Fortitude save once every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check), taking 1d6 points of nonlethal damage on each failed save. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well. Characters wearing a cold weather outfit only need check once per hour for cold and exposure damage.

A character who takes any nonlethal damage from cold or exposure is beset by frostbite or hypothermia (treat her as fatigued). These penalties end when the character recovers the nonlethal damage she took from the cold and exposure.

Extreme cold (below –20° F) deals 1d6 points of lethal damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Rakshaka wrote:

Not even that. What I'm saying is someone who isn't even optimized has a 50/50 shot of starting an encounter from that far of the distance. And yeah, any idiot can come up with scenarios and tricks to confound the range issues or have the HP to survive an attack from ranged combatants. This doesn't address the issue that most desert combats are going to have far more ranged fights that any other. Using monsters at low level that can survive and attack and move fast are not always what's written into the AP; Legacy of Fire sure isn't written that way at all. I'm not talking about what a DM can come up on their own to deal with deserts, I'm talking about the need to address a possible issue that may play out in a desert themed AP, as its written.

I know this is a few months old at this point, but I just wanted to mention that the DC of 21 is only for the distance. That assumes that the enemies are just standing out in the open, charging wildly across the dunes, or something similar. Add stealth checks to the mix, and the difficulty of spotting the enemies goes way up. Even an untrained character with no bonuses or penalties to stealth will add an average of 10 to the Perception DC. At that point, even your Zen Archer has less than a 50% chance of spotting them at that distance.


Shadar Aman wrote:
Rakshaka wrote:

Not even that. What I'm saying is someone who isn't even optimized has a 50/50 shot of starting an encounter from that far of the distance. And yeah, any idiot can come up with scenarios and tricks to confound the range issues or have the HP to survive an attack from ranged combatants. This doesn't address the issue that most desert combats are going to have far more ranged fights that any other. Using monsters at low level that can survive and attack and move fast are not always what's written into the AP; Legacy of Fire sure isn't written that way at all. I'm not talking about what a DM can come up on their own to deal with deserts, I'm talking about the need to address a possible issue that may play out in a desert themed AP, as its written.

I know this is a few months old at this point, but I just wanted to mention that the DC of 21 is only for the distance. That assumes that the enemies are just standing out in the open, charging wildly across the dunes, or something similar. Add stealth checks to the mix, and the difficulty of spotting the enemies goes way up. Even an untrained character with no bonuses or penalties to stealth will add an average of 10 to the Perception DC. At that point, even your Zen Archer has less than a 50% chance of spotting them at that distance.

Which then again becomes entirely absurd. Being unable to spot a person at 210' ? On flat or at least featureless terrain ? (yeah yeah RAW but it is still absurd )

What makes things more interesting in my mind - does anyone actually consider the shifting sands as difficult terrain due to sliding sands (especially walking up dunes) ?


Seeing that driving on a highway you can have 210 feet away shimmering and looking like water is on the road during hot weather... no. It's not unbelievable. Mirages and the like can distort images so you have no idea what is actually there.


deserts are some tricksy terrain, you would be surprised what stuff looks like at 100+ degrees throw on direct sunlight and sand to boot and stuff gets Real! fast!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

archmagi1 wrote:

Yes, though you'd really need to be level 12 before you could ignore both hot and cold entirely.

CRB:Environment wrote:
Extreme cold (below –20° F) deals 1d6 points of lethal damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.

and

CRB:Environment wrote:
Extreme heat (air temperature over 140° F, fire, boiling water, lava) deals lethal damage. Breathing air in these temperatures deals 1d6 points of fire damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save every 5 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Those wearing heavy clothing or any sort of armor take a –4 penalty on their saves.

and

ACG:Humans wrote:
Paladin: Add +1 to the paladin's energy resistance to one kind of energy (maximum +10).

That's 1d6 damage per minute. Energy Resistance applies per circumstance, per round. So, 1 pt of Fire res = minimum of 10 Res/Minute.

1 pt of Fire and Cold each does the job completely for all mundane temperature conditions.

==Aelryinth


Back to Perception checks for a minute - what is the difference between spotting a target and being able to identify that target? What would the DC be to identify (for example) humanoids versus animals, and then humanoid subtypes? Can I tell it's three gnolls at 210 feet, or do I have to wait until they are closer to tell they're not human merchants? If if they are human, do I attack them anyway? Spotting a creature is not the same as determining its intent, and that can make all the difference.

I think the desert environment is only "easy" if the GM doesn't play up these aspects. Make sure the PCs run into other people as well as the bad guys. Use ambushes, disguise, or sudden hostility to ambush parties.


For those other GMs who want to introduce some survival difficulties for the 7th+ level groups headed into the desert in Shifting Sands:

One of the things that is unique to the desert area of Osirian is the phenomenon of the 'Khamsin', which are the massively powerful elemental-driven storms that reshape the dunes every year.

I have advised my players that casting a spell to create large amounts of water in an area frequented by restless fire elementals may not be the wisest decision.

Even if an elemental never appears, it will make them think twice about using the spell, and that makes for tension and story opportunities.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Aelryinth wrote:
archmagi1 wrote:

Yes, though you'd really need to be level 12 before you could ignore both hot and cold entirely.

CRB:Environment wrote:
Extreme cold (below –20° F) deals 1d6 points of lethal damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.

and

CRB:Environment wrote:
Extreme heat (air temperature over 140° F, fire, boiling water, lava) deals lethal damage. Breathing air in these temperatures deals 1d6 points of fire damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save every 5 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Those wearing heavy clothing or any sort of armor take a –4 penalty on their saves.

and

ACG:Humans wrote:
Paladin: Add +1 to the paladin's energy resistance to one kind of energy (maximum +10).

That's 1d6 damage per minute. Energy Resistance applies per circumstance, per round. So, 1 pt of Fire res = minimum of 10 Res/Minute.

1 pt of Fire and Cold each does the job completely for all mundane temperature conditions.

==Aelryinth

There will definitely be some table variation there, as that's not in the core rules anywhere. Nothing in the Heat Dangers section indicates that Energy Resistance behaves in that way. In extreme heat, once a minute a character takes 1d6 fire damage; if they have 3 resist fire and they take 6 fire damage from extreme heat, they will still suffer 3 fire damage.

Also as mentioned above, the nonlethal damage is still present; nonlethal damage is not typed by energy as it is its own type. Curiously enough, you can be immune to fire, and still suffer from the ill effects of a hot environment - unless you have DR/nonlethal or immunity to nonlethal damage, the Fort save or take nonlethal damage will still eventually kill you.

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